Nightly News   |  April 04, 2013

Roger Ebert, Pulitzer Prize-winning movie critic, dies at 70

For nearly three decades Roger Ebert hosted movie review TV shows, most famously with rival newspaper critic Gene Siskel. As one of the most famous movie critics in America, Ebert became a household name with his “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” review system. NBC’s John Yang reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> roger ebert once said, "i believe empathy is the most essential quality of civilization." hear, hear, roger ebert . he also told us when watching movies our emotions will never lie to us. there was general is win emotion today upon word that roger ebert had died. last night right here we were talking about him taking time off of oh film reviewing because of a recurrence of the cancer that he fought so bravely and so publically for so long. tonight from chicago nbc's john yang has a look back.

>> i'm roger ebert of the chicago sun times .

>> reporter: he was a movie critic as famous as the movie stars he reviewed. a sought out voice on award show red carpets.

>> i think it's going to win. i think it is the best movie of the year.

>> reporter: roger ebert has a star on hollywood's walk of fame and was the first film critic to win a pulitzer.

>> thumbs up for me.

>> reporter: his thumb made him a household name. the trademark review system developed with long time co-host gene siskel . they worked for rival newspapers. siskel for the chicago tribune and ebert for the sun times . their on-air sparks came naturally.

>> do you believe a movie has to be fair to be good or accurate?

>> reporter: their relationship was the source of endless fascination.

>> the question was do you like or hate each other and i said, both. roger said --

>> neither.

>> reporter: when siskel died of a brain tumor ebert called him the brother we never had.

>> we were on television together for more than 40 years. we fought it out on our newspaper jobs. there was a lot of competition, a lot of rivalry but also respect and friendship.

>> reporter: for ebert , movies weren't just his career. they were his passion.

>> an asian-american character has the right to be whoever the hell they want to be.

>> reporter: in 1985 he told jane pauley on today his tastes were not high brow .

>> i like a western if it's bad enough, good enough. i don't like in between movies.

>> reporter: he wrote the screen play for the 1970 movie " beyond the valley of the dolls " initially dismissed as schlock it gained cult status. a prolonged battle with cancer drastically changed his appearance and robbed him of the ability to talk. he relied on a computer to be his voice.

>> i was always extraverted. now i am forced to live more within my mind.

>> reporter: but the words never stopped. largely through social media .

>> it breaks through the silence i have been condemned to. it gives me a voice. not this computer speaking voice so much as a voice in print.

>> reporter: a voice he used to spread his love of film to fans everywhere. john yang , nbc news, chicago.

>> roger ebert gone tonight at